Student Specific Grants
Not unlike scholarships, grants are available to students with nearly every characteristic
they can think of. Whether you come from a low-income family, are returning to college
after a long absence or have survived cancer, chances are there is a grant you’re
eligible for. Many will be need-based, and still require that you fill out a Free
Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, so make sure you do so as soon as
the application is available Jan. 1. Others will be merit-based, which means they
reward students based on their academic performance, and may require an additional
application to determine your eligibility. Still others will be a combination of
both need and academics, or even based on other criteria entirely. Make a list of
what makes you special, and investigate the major organizations, local groups and
private corporations that may have funding set aside for education for student specific
grants you may not have come across otherwise. Below are some examples of the kinds
of student specific grants you could be eligible for, just for being you.
Grants for the under-represented populations
The most common student specific grants are those available to under-represented
populations, particularly women and minorities. Many organizations have funding
available to groups they feel have been traditionally underserved in higher education
to entice more students from those groups to go to college.
Grants for women are commonplace among groups who work to bridge the gender gap,
especially in traditionally male-dominated fields of study. The American Association
for University Women (AAUW) awards both fellowships and grants to expand educational
and professional opportunities for American women. The AAUW Community Action Grants,
for example, provide funding of between $2,000 and $12,000 for undergraduate females
looking to advance their careers, change their careers or re-enter the work force.
Women working toward their first advanced degree or who are also minority women
receive special consideration.
Minority students have many options when it comes to grant funding, both from private
groups and organizations working to get more minorities into college and the workforce
and colleges concerned with diversity on their campuses. The United Negro College
Fund, for example, awards grants predominantly to students attending historically
black colleges. The National Institutes of Health give out an annual Minority Access
to Research Careers grant to support undergraduate research training of minority
students and assist minority students pursuing biomedical and behavioral research
fields of study.
Students with disabilities also have many options to not only help pay for school,
but to cover special accommodations they’d need to pay for out-of-pocket otherwise.
Thanks to the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975,
schools are much more cognizant of students with special needs and funding assistance
for that group in order to make the college experience both physically and financially
accessible. Many organizations that advocate for people with disabilities have grant
funds set up for disabled students looking to start college or to conduct research
on disabilities. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation provides a number
of grant opportunities for graduate students looking to advance research in the
field, with special categories for minority and disabled students.
Grants for non-traditional students
If you’re one of the thousands of non-traditional students returning to college
after a long hiatus or pursuing a degree later in life, you do have options when
it comes to finding grants to fund your education. Executive Women International
provides funding through its Adult Students in Scholastic Transition grant program
to adults facing economic, social, or physical challenges, who are looking to improve
their situation through educational opportunities.
Those pursuing both a college education and a career in the military also have many
options when it comes to grant funding, along with those affected by a parent or
spouse who has been deployed by the military. The General Henry H. Arnold Education
Grant Program is available to undergraduates who are the children or spouses of
active duty or former U.S. Air Force members. Recipients of the award, who must
also show need and a minimum 2.0 GPA, receive $2,000 to go toward their studies
Grants for survivors
Beating a tough illness is difficult enough without worrying about how you’re going
to pay for college. Many funding opportunities exist for those who need some financial
assistance after surviving a devastation disease. The Cancer Survivors' Fund, for
example, provides funding for young survivors returning to college who are also
willing to volunteer some time to inspire other survivors by speaking about their
experience. There are also a number of cancer scholarships available to help cancer
survivors afford college. Contact local support groups and advocacy organizations
to see whether they have scholarships and grants available for survivors going to
college, and you may be surprised by the generosity of many of these groups.
Grants for international students
International students looking to study here aren’t out of luck when it comes to
finding funding to pay for their college educations. While the costs are often greater
for international students looking to study at American institutions, many grant
and scholarship programs exist to alleviate that burden and to foster cultural exchanges.
The most popular program is the Fulbright Scholar Program through the Council for
International Exchange for Scholars, which not only helps fund international scholars
coming here, but funds American scholars looking to study abroad. The program is
competitive, and often the funding goes to those looking to pursue research and
advanced degrees here.
For more examples of scholarships and grants based on other criteria that you could
be eligible for, conduct a free scholarship search to get a list of awards that
could help you pay for college.